On frigid morning at cathedral, archbishop says Catholic schools meant to turn students into saints

DETROIT — Subzero temperatures closed schools across the Archdiocese of Detroit on Thursday, but pilgrims from an estimated dozen schools braved the frigid conditions to celebrate the Catholic Schools Week Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament with Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

Noting the smaller than usual crowd for the annual Mass and celebration of Catholic schools, Archbishop Vigneron thanked the students and teachers for coming to the cathedral to celebrate the Eucharist and offer up all their studies and hard work to God.

“Well little flock, how good it is the Lord has brought us together,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Today, we call to mind that we are not only praying for those who are gathered here today, but for all the Catholic schools in our community in the Archdiocese of Detroit.”

Students listen as Archbishop Vigneron addresses them during his homily at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

The Mass featured students from various schools reading from Scripture and offering the prayers of the faithful.

Archbishop Vigneron used his homily to ask the students what subjects they were learning in school and reflecting on why they go to Catholic schools to learn.

“Who here is in the first grade or second grade and has learned how to read?” Archbishop Vigneron asked. “Who here knows their multiplication tables? Who here is reading Shakespeare?”

Archbishop Vigneron told the students their education is a means to an end. The students go to school and learn so they use what they learn to do good works in the world, and it is through those good works that they offer glory and praise to God.

“During Catholic Schools Week, we need to remember that we bring a practical vision to what our schools do and prepare you to be,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “We want you to be prepared to be productive in your state of life. We want you to be prepared, but we have a grander vision at Catholic schools, a deeper vision about what education is about.”

Archbishop Vigneron walks around the cathedral as he calls on students to share what they've been learning in Catholic schools.

On Tuesday at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Kevin Kijewski, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit, outlined a detailed four-part vision for the future of Catholic schools in the archdiocese, but during Thursday’s Mass, Archbishop Vigneron synthesized the message to a basic principle.

“This vision isn’t my vision; it’s not the superintendent’s vision, or your teacher’s vision. It’s God’s vision,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “God says what your education and our Catholic schools are for. They are for preparing to do the good works that belong to the Christian disciple. In everything you do in school, you are being prepared to give witness to Jesus Christ, to love Christ and give glory to God.”

Archbishop Vigneron said Catholic schools exist to form saints in the world and prepare souls to become saints in the next. He further added that all the studies, homework, tests and service hours Catholic school students complete throughout the year can be offered up on the same altar of sacrifice as the Holy Eucharist.

“What you do in your life, you make as an offering alongside the sacrificial offering,” Archbishop Vigneron said.  “Remember, there is never love without sacrifice. In your studies, you have to sacrifice to advance; sometimes you struggle, but that’s what it means to offer up to God. That is what our schools are about, to help us offer a sacrifice alongside the sacrifice of Christ, who offered His body and blood for our salvation.”

Archbishop Vigneron finished his homily with a reminder of what all the celebrations during Catholic Schools Week and throughout the year are meant for: Forming future saints, and offering all the celebration, thankfulness and work in the school year up to God.

An altar server smiles as he carries the processional crucifix during the all-schools Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Jan. 31.

“This celebration that we are having here today is reflective of everything our schools are about,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “To glorify God in everything we do in response to His love for us.”

Following Mass, Kijewski acknowledged all the students, teachers and parents who braved the cold temperatures.

He also presented the recipients of scholarships awarded by Alliance Catholic Credit Union, who composed a six-word essay on a photo they selected.

"We did this essay where we had to write six words about a picture we sent in," said Shannon Romkema, a junior at Our Lady of the Lakes High School in Waterford. "The picture I used was of my niece when she was 4 years old, right after she had open-heart surgery. The words I chose were 'God's soldier born amongst great adversities.' My niece had a very small chance of surviving after being born with a hole in her heart, and I wanted to share the word, that through God's miracles, you can do a lot of things."

The Mass and all of Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity for all the students to reflect on what it means to be a student at a Catholic school and the advantages and blessings that come with attending a school that puts Christ at the center of the curriculum. 

"I think that it is nice to be somewhere where you are able to improve your faith, talk about your faith and learn about the faith; at public schools, you don't have that option," said Maxwell Mader, an eighth-grader at Guardian Angels School in Clawson. "Though times can be tough in school, you always have faith in God that things will get better. I think it is a very positive environment at Catholic schools, where you learn you need to be really strong in your faith to make it through life."  

The following students received scholarships:

  • Pierre Antone, St. Fabian School, Farmington Hills
  • Cameron Behnke, Bishop Foley High School, Madison Heights
  • Catheryn Ibegbu, Divine Child High School, Dearborn
  • Adriana Garmo, Bishop Foley High School, Madison Heights
  • Maxwell Mader, Guardian Angels School, Clawson
  • Emily Reece, Shrine High School, Royal Oak
  • Shannon Romkema, Our Lady of the Lakes, Waterford
  • Michael Acho Tartoni, Detroit Catholic Central High School, Novi
  • Sophia Wisniewski, Divine Child High School, Dearborn
  • Matthew Zammit Jr., Holy Cross School, Marine City

To see more photos from the Catholic Schools Week Mass at the cathedral, visit the Archdiocese of Detroit's Facebook page.